“The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul.”
Wassily Kandinsky born in Moscow in 1866 to musical parents Lidia Ticheeva and Vasily Silvestrovich Kandinsky, a tea merchant. He took up the study of art in earnest at age 30, moving to Munich to study drawing and painting. A trained musician, Kandinsky approached color with a musician’s sensibility. Kandinsky emerged as a respected leader of the abstract art movement in the early 20th century.
In Munich, Kandinsky was accepted into a prestigious private painting school, moving on to the Munich Academy of Arts. But much of his study was self-directed. He began with conventional themes and art forms, but all the while he was forming theories derived from devoted spiritual study and informed by an intense relationship between music and color. Color became more an expression of emotion rather than a faithful description of nature or subject matter. He formed friendships and artist groups with other painters of the time, such as Paul Klee.
He had already formed the New Artists Association in Munich; the Blue Rider group was founded with fellow artist Franz Marc, and he was a member of the Bauhaus movement alongside Klee and composer Arnold Schoenberg.
When he and his wife Münter separated, Kandinsky suffered a nervous breakdown. World War I took him back to Russia, where his artistic eye was influenced by the constructivist movement, based on hard lines, dots and geometry. While there, the 50-year-old Kandinsky met and married Nina Andreevskaya, a 17-year-old art student. They had a son together, but the boy lived for only three years and the subject of children became taboo. The couple stayed on in Russia after the revolution, with Kandinsky applying his restless and comprehensive energies to the administration of educational and government-run art programs, helping to create Moscow’s Institute of Artistic Culture and Museum of Pictorial Culture.
Back in Germany after clashing theoretically with other artists, he taught at the Bauhaus school in Berlin and wrote plays and poems. In 1933, when the Nazis seized power, storm troopers shut down the Bauhaus school. Although Kandinsky had achieved German citizenship, World War II made it impossible for him to stay there. In July 1937, he and other artists were featured in the “Degenerate Art Exhibition” in Munich. It was widely attended, but 57 of his works were confiscated by the Nazis.
Kandinsky with his wife Nina had moved to the suburb of Paris in the late 1930s, when Marcel Duchamp had found a little apartment for them. When the Germans invaded France in 1940, Kandinsky fled to the Pyrenees, but returned to Neuilly afterward, where he lived a rather secluded life, depressed that his paintings weren’t selling.
From 1927 to 1933, Kandinsky's paintings were characterized by abundant use of pictorial (like real pictures) signs and softer color. This is called his romantic or concrete period. It led to the last phase of his art, spent in France, which was a synthesis (blending) of his previous periods. In 1939 Kandinsky became a French citizen. He died on December 13, 1944, in France.
Kandinsky is still greatly admired today for his own paintings and for being the originator of abstract art. He wanted to mirror the universe in his own visionary world. He felt that painting possessed the same power as music and that sign, line, and color ought to correspond to the vibrations of the human soul.